Rassie’s Boks ready for RWC – Jake

Jake White

One of the most meaningful things I ever got was a letter after my first Test in New Zealand as Springbok coach. Doug Howlett scored in the 86th minute to give the All Blacks a 23-21 win in Christchurch in 2004.

When I woke up the next morning, there was a letter under my door from Andre Joubert, who was in New Zealand on business and had been staying in the same hotel as the team.

The letter said: “I just want to say congratulations! It’s great to see the Boks are back!”

I’ve still got that handwritten letter from a legend of the 1995 Rugby World Cup champions. Even though we’d lost the Test, Andre understood what it meant to have run the All Blacks so close and, even though the result didn’t go our way at Loftus Versfeld this year, people recognise that the Boks are on that level again.

Six months ago, the New Zealand media would never have questioned the All Blacks, but after what happened in Wellington and Pretoria I read an article where they were talking about the World Cup opener against South Africa being “like war” because whoever loses that match will probably have to face Ireland in the quarter-finals.

That reaction confirms that the Boks are legit. We might not have all the stats that people would like to see, but it’s obvious that South Africa has turned a corner, in their performances and psychologically, and that will make other teams very wary of the Boks.

The challenge on the November tour will be to beat England in England, but don’t fall into the trap of moving the goalposts. When we weren’t winning, talk was that we’d take it any way we could get it, and now that the Boks have won, some pundits are saying we need to get straight A’s on the end-of-year tour.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but I agree with the New Zealand and English media when they say the Boks are the real deal. Don’t underestimate the impact that positive media has on our players, and what it does to our rivals who have to read that.

It’s easy to say I think the Boks still have to do this or that, but the truth is that the All Blacks would have a real problem if Aaron Smith got injured, yet they’re credited with having the best rugby systems in the world and they’ve had the same coach for eight years.

We all know what it means to play against Smith and he means a lot to the All Blacks who play with him. No one can deny there’s a massive void between Smith and the next scrumhalf in the pecking order, and the same goes for Ireland – who is behind Johnny Sexton? People should remember that before they criticize the drop-off between some of the Boks’ current starters and the next in line.

I think Rassie has ticked enough boxes in the last six months to warrant what some of the most respected rugby people are now saying about the Boks and you have to give him credit for that.

Everyone understands that the 2019 RWC opener against New Zealand is almost like a knockout game. But what’s changed over the past six months is that the showdown is now looking like a genuine contest – the result is no longer a foregone conclusion. And what’s nice is that view isn’t coming from within the Bok camp, outside voices are saying it about South Africa.

Whether people like it or not, it’s not debateable – the jewel in the rugby crown is the World Cup. The champions get four years’ bragging rights and one thing Rassie has continually said is that his plan is to make sure the team is ready for 2019.

He knows the first game against New Zealand is the one he has to be ready for and, if you measure what he’s done this year, there’s enough there to say the Boks are on track.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Alastair Campbell

    Bring on the November tour! Next milestone is to beat England at good old Fortress Twickers – something we used to do with regularity. I sense that might be more of a challenge for this group – not because they aren’t talented – but it will require a shift in strategy and tactics to play the game up North. I still remember how miserable we were in the wet vs. England in the third test this year. Let’s give it our best shot boys! After beating NZ, there is nothing better than beating England at HQ.

  • Chris Mouton

    I don’t agree with Jake regarding Aaron Smith. In this past Rugby Championship TJ Perenara actually played better. They have Tahuriorangi playing good rugby as well. I all honesty, the All Blacks have sufficient depth in all positions. This is why they can pick 51 players for the Northern and Japanese tours and still leave players like Ben Lam, Vince Aso and Akira Ioane behind.

    I do agree that the Boks are back on track. With their past 3 matches they’ve shifted up a gear. What I would really like to see is consistency. If the Boks continue planning and preparing for each team they play, they can complete the EOYT 4-0, but they need to respect their opponents and stay hungry for improvement. Good luck, Bokke! Behind you all the way!

    • nezo

      This is what Jake is talking about:

      Fourie du Preez injured and then Ruan Pienaar taking over. It just won’t be the same. Fourie did three times more for the Boks than Ruan could ever do.

      so TJ is good but All Blacks are a far lesser threat with him there than Aaron

  • John Comyn

    Jake warns the expectation from the pundits is that we must get straight A’s on the tour. I agree that if we lose to England it does not mean we are not on track! He’s been there and done that. He was called back by SARU while on tour to please explain. Guess what he won the WC thereafter.

    • Vossie

      Any news on the team announcement??

  • Vossie

    I guess now that Rassie has found his core 23 and made some considerable strides in the championship, we should be hoping for a 4 – 0 clean sweep.

  • Barry

    I must say, I share Chris’s views on this. Jake is off the mark as far as Aaron Smith is concerned and more so the general subject of depth as it relates to the top tier Nations compared to South Africa. We looked at Scrum Halves a few days back and frankly it was alarming at how little depth we had and how much the top tier nations have! As Chris points out, TJ has over 50 caps and is a very worthy replacement and NZ have a third and forth option, all with extensive test experience. England have the same depth, yet SA’s 2nd choice, has not as yet started a test!

    We have a great starting 15, they are world class and provided they stay fit, we are in great shape, but we are still some way off in defining who will slot in, either off the bench or in the event of an injury!

    Selections for the EOYT are thus critical. We need to get the best possible candidates into the squad, so that players across the board can be evaluated and the best possible squad selected from that mix – be this at the cost of a test or two if it must be!

    We need to get into a situation as was the case with John Smit and Bismark Du Plessis, where the incumbent, felt seriously threatened by the number two. We have achieved quite a bit in the front row, at lock, eighth man and on the wings, but 6,7,9,15 remain major issues!

  • Herman Schroder?

    Is Jake still looking for the Bok coaching job when Rassie comes around to appointing one ? An objective look at the results over the past ten tests and the miracle of Wellington as well as the implosion in the Loftus debacle is not very comforting in my opinion. The two England tests we won also a bit of a burgle if truth be told. Rassie has had the rub of the green and still managed to get beaten by five countries in his short career. His 50% win ratio could have been far worse. Are we really ready for the WC as Jake implies ??

    The problem for many pundits like Jake is that the bar was set so low before Rassie started that any win is given heroic status whereas in fact we’ve only become more competitive with still plenty to work on before the WC. The EOYT, SR and RC should separate the men from the boys and maybe by then we”ll know the true state of our rugby. If one thinks back on a simple missed conversion in Wellington and the Loftus implosion then Jake’s optimistic call for WC glory, while it might please Rassie and Co, can only be considered a wee bit premature. Slow down Jake you’re moving too fast. Cheers.

    • Albert

      You forget that the Wellington “miracle” and Loftus “debacle” were played against the world champions, best team on earth, and so called “best team ever” in sport. So take a seat, a deep breath and try again.

      They are on the right path, and yes the truer tests still lie ahead. As for the England tests, how many times have the best team in the world done similar things? At Loftus (the so called debacle) the roles were reversed, NZ stole that one, much like SA stole the England tests. How is it that both are treated differently just because SA was on the other side of the result? That is very subjective there.

      Just saying. Sorry, not sorry.

      • Barry

        I do agree with you that they are certainly on the right path – our National Rugby has a very positive feel about it now, yet not a year ago we were down and out and there was very little positive to say about it!

        However, I think Herman is right in suggesting that the euphoria should be tempered a little, there is still much to be done in finding our bench players and our second stringers and we have very few tests left in order to do that.

        I have no doubt that we have the players to do it. Its just a question of getting the right ones into the mix, whilst ensuring that all role players are satisfied with the end result. Not easy!

        • SweetAz

          And therein lies the rub,—-when so many of the “bench” players are not even first choice at their franchises I don’t know if it’s even achievable. I believe we would have won that Loftus test if the bench had just stayed on the bench and the starters toughed it out for a few more minutes, by dropping a few scrums and setting up a few mauls.

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